November 2, 2011
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Study of adults in tight-knit South Dakota community shows lonely feelings associated with compromised sleep -- that is, the stronger the loneliness, the more disruptions during the night, with potentially negative consequences on wellness. Results agree with 2002 study of college students, indicating that individuals young and old, in big towns and small, need to feel secure in their social setting to get a healthy night's rest.
"It's not just a product of very lonely individuals having poor sleep. The relationship between loneliness and restless sleep appears to operate across the range of perceived connectedness," said lead author Lianne Kurina, PhD, of the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago.
"Loneliness has been associated with adverse effects on health," Kurina said. "We wanted to explore one potential pathway for this, the theory that sleep -- a key behavior to staying healthy -- could be compromised by feelings of loneliness. What we found was that loneliness does not appear to change the total amount of sleep in individuals, but awakens them more times during the night."
"Whether you're a young student at a major university or an older adult living in a rural community, we may all be dependent on feeling secure in our social environment in order to sleep soundly," Kurina said. "The results from these studies could further our understanding of how social and psychological factors 'get under the skin' and affect health."